Local News

February 23, 2014

New-style signal proves easy to learn, safe

The flashing yellow arrow signal installed Oct. 1, 2013, at the intersection of Walnut and South Thornton avenues is quickly proving it’s no flash in the pan.

In fact, as soon as the light was turned on that day, the first two drivers in line knew what to do, traffic control officials say.

Now, nearly five months later, Andrew Parker and Alex Rice of Dalton Public Works say the new-style light has proven so successful that four more such signals will be installed at other intersections along the Dalton Bypass as early as this summer, setting the stage for many others in the coming years.

“We’ve had a lot of positive feedback from our citizens,” Parker said, “and that’s what we were hoping to hear. We’ve received phone calls, the Forum in The Daily Citizen has been very positive and citizens in person tell us how much they appreciate that signal because it provides so much opportunity to turn left. The response just essentially reinforces what we were hoping to be able to do when we installed this signal.”

Now that the flashing yellow arrow signals have finally been endorsed by the Georgia Department of Transportation, drivers can expect to see them popping up in other cities across the state, too. Indeed, trend-setting Dalton was one of the four towns recognized for the use of the new signals in a story in the most recent issue of DOT’s quarterly publication, Georgia Milepost, and Parker says Dalton drivers will benefit as the lights become more common in other cities since they already have experience using them.

Parker points out that it was the persistent efforts of Dalton resident Roger Williams, who represents the 14th Congressional District of Georgia on the State Transportation Board, that finally convinced GDOT to approve the first signal here.

“We personally don’t feel like we would have that signal there now without him going to bat for us,” Parker said. “I mean, Mr. Williams worked with GDOT officials for the better part of a year to obtain approval and authorization.”

Parker says his department had submitted all the engineering plans to GDOT, but the state really hadn’t taken that leap of faith yet to move forward with these signals until Williams intervened.

“Mr. Williams essentially was our conduit to be able to talk to the state officials,” Parker said. “He constantly worked to help get approval, and then finally we received a phone call from him telling us that we were going to get our flashing yellow arrow signal after months of him working with the state. We want to give Mr. Williams credit for all his hard work.”

The old signal allowed eastbound drivers to turn left from Walnut Avenue onto South Thornton Avenue only on a green arrow, but when the light turned red, drivers frequently grew annoyed waiting for another arrow when all the while they could obviously see that no cars were headed their way. Now, the flashing yellow arrow signal allows drivers to turn left whenever there is a sufficient break in oncoming traffic headed west on Walnut.

But the new signal is about more than convenience. It’s also proven to be safe, too.

“I had our traffic division pull the accident history for that intersection since we installed the signal, and we haven’t had any crashes as a result of that signal since Oct. 1,” Parker said. “That to me just reinforces that it is a more intuitive signal and that motorists are understanding very easily what that signal is intended to do. There’s been a zero learning curve.”

The signals have been installed in other states across the country for years, with the same type of success, and Parker says GDOT has now climbed on board, convinced that the flashing yellow arrow signals are the best option for many other intersections across Georgia.

“The state is starting to implement corridors where they will install these signals,” Parker said, “and actually from what we’re hearing lately, they’re starting to switch out all the traditional five-section signals with the Flashing Yellow Arrows. They’re starting to feel like it’s a more intuitive signal, a safer signal for motorists.”

In fact, realizing that the new-style signal is the wave of the future, GDOT sent eight technicians to watch the installation here in October so they would be familiar with it. Also on hand were representatives of Temple Inc., an Alabama company that manufactures signals and actually first suggested the use of the flashing yellow arrow signal at the Walnut-Thornton intersection to Dalton officials.

“Temple works all over the Southeast so they had done a lot of work in North Carolina where they’ve been using these signals for a long time,” Parker said. “Their logic was the same as ours — hey, other states have been doing it for this long — why don’t y’all?”

That installation training will soon come in handy. This month, the state will let a project for Whitfield County for 15 traffic signal upgrades throughout the county, including several intersections that are slated to be changed to the Flashing Yellow Arrows.

“The plans originally called for the traditional five-section signal,” Parker said, “but GDOT actually had the designer go back and redesign the whole plans to include the new-style signal. I think that’s a testament to how on board the state has gotten with this kind of signal.”

Four of those flashing yellow arrow signals will be installed at four intersections on the Dalton Bypass, including Willowdale Road, Thornton Avenue, Reed Road/Chattanooga Avenue, and Underwood Road.

The city also plans to consider installing the flashing yellow arrow signals at other off-system intersections not regulated by the state, Parker said.

“We’re looking at intersections where we already have the protected turn arrows and potentially converting those signals over to the Flashing Yellow Arrows,” Parker said. “Over the next decade, the traditional signal will become a thing of the past except for certain intersections where it would not be safe.”

In fact, the city has actually decided to use the new-style signals on the Glenwood Avenue at Waugh Street and M.L. King Jr. Boulevard intersection improvement project which is currently under construction. The contractor plans to begin installing the flashing yellow arrow signals this week, Parker said.


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